Saturday, December 27, 2008

Grandpa No-legs: 1920-2008

After 88 years living life on his own terms, Grandpa died last night. He was predeceased by his parents and brother and is survived by his wife, a sister, a son and a daughter, four grandchildren, two and a half great-grandchildren and a score of nieces and nephews.

Grandpa, we hardly knew ye.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I read a book by Charles Schewe about cohort marketing a few years ago. He's a marketing genius. His theory, if I recall it correctly, is that what happens in the world between the ages of 17 and 23 for a particular person informs the way that that person reacts to basically everything else, including marketing materials. So if you're marketing to octogenarians, you need to look at what was happening 60 years ago in order to trick them into buying whatever it is you're schilling.

That's a way-over simplification. And if you have any interest in marketing (I'm fascinated by it), I highly recommend his books.

All this to get around to my point, which is I started working at Gus and Paul's Bakery in Springfield when I was 17 and I left when I was 23. And - no joke - that experience has absolutely informed the rest of my life. I don't exactly miss working there - food service has little to recommend it - but I carry it with me always, especially at Christmastime.

Working in a bakery at Christmastime...I have no idea what I can compare it to. All I can say is it's insane. People have certain things they like to eat at certain times of the year and if they arrive at a bakery and the baked good they want isn't currently available, they completely lose their shit. Or if the item comes out of the oven looking a little different than it used to look, Christmas is ruined. People just come completely unhinged.

Working behind the counter dealing with these people is really hard, and made harder because there are so many people behind the counter at once to deal with the crowds. Just trying to put a cake in a box you could accidentally manhandle any number of your colleagues.

But on Christmas Eve there was a glorious moment after we locked the doors and cleaned up the store and right before everyone left to go home to their families that all of us in our food-covered uniforms would stand in the back room and hug each other, and wish each other a Merry Christmas - even the people who didn't like each other very much in the everyday - and we would mean it. It was a beautiful moment of peace and love in a place that every other moment of the year was exactly the opposite (seriously, the bakery is where I developed my sailor-mouth).

That is the part I miss. That's the part I'm carrying with me today.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Update: Grandpa No-legs

It's not looking good for Grandpa No-legs.

Last year sometime, he started acting a fool and demanded to be put into a nursing home. My mother wasn't having it and ignored him. Then he started surreptitiously calling social service organizations claiming my mother was abusing him.

If a person could get in trouble for wanting to abuse a person, we'd all be behind bars. I never understood elder abuse before he turned into an elder I wanted to abuse. But that guy had it made. He was running my poor mother ragged and to repay her he accused her of abusing him.

He's a capital fellow, my grandfather.

My mother suffered grief over this and ultimately acquiesced and put him in a nursing home six or so months ago. He bounced around a bit before finally landing in a nursing home just around the corner from us in Holyoke. The others he tried out just didn't suit him.

Honestly, I didn't visit him much, mostly because he's an asshole. Also, because he hardly really noticed who visited him. He retreated into a strange la-la land. Basically, he had no idea he was blind or anything because he was having hallucinations all the time, inventing realities that were real only to him.

And they were weird. He was having eye pain and invented a story of someone breaking glass into his eye. He told my mother that there was glass in his eye and the nursing home wasn't doing anything about it. My mother checked in with the nurse, of course, and the nurse told her that he told them there was glass in his eye as well, so they called the appropriate professionals to check his eyes and, well, there was no glass.

More recently, his ear was hurting him. He told the nurse that his wife had been beating him up side the head. If my grandmother were beating him up side the head, she'd certainly have good cause, but she hadn't visited him without my mother at her side and there was no beating of any kind.

And when he wasn't out to lunch, he was still pretty jerky. But lately there's been less jerky and more out-to-lunch than ever before.

This past week he's taken a serious turn. My mother called this morning to advise me that visiting today was a good idea. He'd stopped eating and drinking.

I went over to the nursing home this afternoon. He was lying in the bed looking really small. Smaller still since he doesn't wear his prosthetic legs anymore. I shouted hello to him. Announced myself. He didn't respond. I shouted again, "Grandpy, can you hear me?" He responded, "Yes?" So I told him I loved him and that I was lucky to have a Grandpa deep into my thirties. I rubbed his head for a while. Then I started to cry quietly to myself.

And I kept crying for a while. Not out loud or anything. But shortly a nurse came in and put her hand on my back and said she was sorry. I thanked her. Then I cried a little more and I left.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ailment update - plus bedtime apparel

Did I ever tell you about how I got the Carpal Tunnel? Well, I did. It's mostly gone away, but I have to wear splints at night. I got an ergonomic keyboard at home and at work. Did you know ergonomic keyboards go for $68? Well, they do.

I stopped having to wear the splints, which I lovingly refer to as my mittens, at work, but I do have to wear them when I'm typing at home. Something about my set up at home is still off even though I've futzed around with it quite a bit, and if I spend any amount of time on the home computer without my mittens, I end up in a lot of wrist pain.

I feel like I'm on top of it, though. Things are turning around.

On the bastard plantar fasciitis front, I really am feeling mostly better, as long as I do my stretches and wear my foot splints to bed. I like to call these my boots. Anyway, last week I woke up on the middle of the night with my feet tingling and I was too groggy to fix the boots, so I just took them off. Holy hell. What a difference that made. I was in such a bad way that day!

Of course, my current "in a bad way day" is about 100% better than my former "good day" levels of pain. It's all relative. In fact, what happens now isn't even pain more than it's tightness.

Bedtime is a real fashion show around here what with my boots and mittens. I also am wearing ear plugs to bed these days to drown out Scott's night-time deforestation project.

See, I got to feeling really guilty about running the fan all night for the white noise (I've tried several white noise machines to no avail; they just didn't sound like my fan) and I tried out the ear plugs. At first, they didn't really help, but now that I've gotten used to them, I'm nearly sleeping through the night. And we're not wasting electricity. It's like a miracle!

I am not sure if I should be feeling guilty about the ear plugs since they're made of plastic. They're disposable, but I reuse them until they're fall-apart-y. I'm not going to think about it.

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Feelin' hot-hot-hot (a few moments of boiling anger with Jennifer Myszkowski - plus, some advice)

Our furnace had a problem last week and we lost the heat. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called the oil company and asked them if they could service our furnace. The nice lady replied, "We're scheduling service for January."

"I don't know if we can wait that long," I told her, "Our furnace won't turn on."

Lickety-split, there was a fellow (I like to call him Mr. Furnace, though his actual name was Jim) in our basement berating the previous owner of our house for taking such shitty care of the furnace. He was ready to berate me, but when I told him we only just bought the place six months ago and we're first-time home owners, he was filled with the compassion.

Well, not exactly filled, but he had some and he started telling me what we need to do from now on. I think I won him over when I stopped him so I could go get a pen and paper to take notes. I was drinking from his font of knowledge, after all.

In the homeowner statement that sellers fill out, the previous owners of the house claimed to have regularly serviced the furnace.

When Mr. Furnace cracked open our furnace, he said that, at minimum, it's been four years since the furnace was serviced.

I'll tell you, that guy had eyes like an eagle. He was in our basement for two minutes and he noticed an oil leak by the tank, a water leak from the furnace and that there were no service records by the furnace.

The oil leak was a function of the furnace not being serviced for a long time. There's a filter that should get changed once a year. After four years, it kind of gave up and started leaking. Can you blame it?

One thing that Mr. Furnace told us that we didn't know and I feel compelled to share is that if you're looking at a house and there are no service records hanging from the furnace it means:
  1. The homeowner removed them to hide a problem with the furnace
  2. The realtor removed them to hide a problem with the furnace

Bottom line: no service records spells trouble. If there are no furnace service records hanging from a furnace, a home buyer should pay for a furnace inspection ($50-$100) and then force the homeowner to pay for the repairs before making the purchase.

I never even heard of this. Mr. Furnace suggested that perhaps our inspector should have told us this and that he might be a second-rate inspector since he didn't, but I truly don't believe that. Our inspector gave us so much really right-on information and great advice that I can't hold him responsible for missing one small thing.

Also, we read about 100 articles and books about home buying and not a single one suggested this.

But Mr. Furnace suggested it and now I'm suggesting it.

Mr. Furnace was here for about four hours. He replaced the transformer, which blew because the furnace wasn't working properly due to not having been serviced, then he fixed the whole thing up right. It was a giant ruckus and, I'll tell you, Mr. Furnace was furious with the previous owners of our house.

And so was I. I got powerfully angry at those motherfuckers. In fact, Scott and I toyed with the idea of sending them a letter. I wanted it to be snarky and sarcastic. Scott wanted it to be just honest and disappointed. I voted the whole thing down because I don't want to be that guy, but it's so tempting to be that guy!

If we ever sell this house, I hope the new people don't hate us and take our names in vain. We're trying so hard to do right by the house.

When it was all said and done, the bill for the repair was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was still a lot of money, but it certainly could have been more. And the beauty part is that I had the money and we're not going to starve as a result of our having had to repair the furnace. And the reason they hid the service records is because there is something pretty big that needs to be repaired and soon, but it's not effecting the efficiency of the furnace and we still have heat. We just have to closely monitor the water level until it's repaired. But the other beauty part is that it turns out that my dad (the Artist) knows how to make the repair and has offered to help. All we have to do is buy the parts.

But let this be a cautionary tale: take care of your furnace with annual service and don't assume the previous homeowners are telling the truth.

Speaking of: if you know a person who can properly service a slate roof, e-mail me. They claim they had it gone over in March of this year, but I don't believe them. And either way, you're supposed to have it gone over every spring anyway.

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How you know you're too busy

When your grandmother calls your father and tells him to tell you to blog more, and you don't because you just don't have time.


So much has been going on. No matter where I start, I'm sure to miss something. But I've got to keep Grandmother happy. She is my identical-twin grandmother after all.

Incidentally, she doesn't think we're identical twins. It's obvious to everyone else, mind you. But when I say it to her, she announces, "I don't see it!" - almost like she doesn't like the comparison. Even so, I still say it.

One time I said to her, "If I were you, I would be my favorite grandchild. I mean, look at us, we're practically identical twins!"

Her reply could be translated to, "Yeah, right! Keep telling yourself that, lady."

During Primates and Pancakes, she was sitting in the living room and my bosslady from work went in and introduced herself. She said, "Hello, I'm {her name}, but Jennifer calls me her bosslady."

My grandmother replied, "Well, Jennifer calls me her identical-twin grandmother."

Later, my comedy friend Holly went in and introduced herself. And my grandmother introduced herself as Jennifer's identical-twin grandmother.

I don't know, but I think she might be warming up to the title.